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Iraq banned from Summer Olympics

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  • NEW: Iraqi government interference in Olympic committee attributed to "jealousy"
  • International Olympic Committee accuses Iraqi government of interference in sports
  • Iraqi government suspended nation's Olympic Committee in May
  • Seven Iraqi athletes were to compete in Beijing, China
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A few months ago, it seemed liked nothing could stop Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussain from representing her country in the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Iraq fans cheer during an Olympic qualifying soccer match against Australia in November.

Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussain was devastated to learn she could not participate in the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Then, the International Olympic Committee banned Iraq from competing because of what it says is the government's political interference in sports.

Hussain cried for hours after hearing the news, which arrived in the form of a letter to Iraqi officials.

"She hasn't stopped. It's like finding out that a close relative has died," said her coach, Yousif Abdul Rahman.

Abdul Rahman attempted to console Hussain by assuring her that she could compete in the 2012 Olympics. Video Watch Hussain react to the news »

"In this horrible situation," she said, "who can say I'll even be alive in 2012?"

CNN received a copy of the letter sent to Jassim Mohammed Jaffer, Iraqi minister of youth and sports, and Ali Mohsen Ismail, acting secretary general of the Iraqi general secretariat of the Council of Ministers.

"We deeply regret this outcome, which severely harms the Iraqi Olympic and Sports Movement and the Iraqi athletes, but which is unfortunately imposed by the circumstances," said the letter, signed by two IOC officials. Video Watch an official explain the decision »

The move stems from an Iraqi government decision in May to suspend the nation's Olympic Committee and form a temporary committee to handle its duties.

The Iraqi government thought the committee had not been operating properly and as a result undermined the sporting movement there.

The government said the original committee held meetings without quorums and had officials serving in one-year posts for more than five years. Many of the officials also lived outside Iraq, the government said. See a cartoonist's take on the decision

Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said it suspended Iraq's national Olympic Committee in June after the government removed elected officials and put in people the IOC didn't recognize.

She said the IOC proposed to the Iraqi government that officials come to the organization's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, "to discuss possible solutions."

But she said they didn't respond. "We're extremely disappointed with the situation. The athletes have been ill-served by the government in Iraq," she said.

Moreau said Iraq missed a Wednesday deadline for the entry of athletes to compete in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting. Video Watch a historian discuss the Olympics in Iraq under Saddam Hussein »

She said there is a chance that track and field athletes could compete if the original committee is reinstated. The deadline for the track team to register is at the end of the month. The Games begin August 8.

A former official from the disbanded Iraq Olympic Committee said the IOC's decision was justified because the government interfered with the national committee by suspending it.

The former official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

He said he believed that the government suspended the committee out of "jealousy."

The national committee was making great strides, and the government, namely the Ministry of Youth and Sports, wanted control of it, he said.

The seven Iraqi athletes who were to travel to China for the Games' start in August are disappointed by the decision, officials said. They include an archer, a weightlifter, a judoka, two rowers and two sprinters, one of whom is Dana Hussain.

Her coach called the decision unfair and said he blames "everyone": the Iraqi government and the Iraqi and International Olympic committees.

In the end, Abdul Rahman said, the athletes are paying the price.


"It's a shame after all the efforts, ambitions, risks and dangers," he said.

"I wish from the bottom of my heart they would reconsider this unjust decision for the sake of the athletes."

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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